cycling · fashion

Too Vain (or Cool) for a Bike Helmet? Go Invisible!

hvdingairbagcollarA disclaimer: I’m probably not the best one to write this post because I really couldn’t care less what my bike helmet looks like or what it might do to my low-maintenance hair.

But, I am a big believer in bike helmets (and hats in the winter, for that matter!) because I have only one brain, I depend on it for my livelihood, and I’d rather have a few people think I look dorky (I guess that’s a thing with some people) than risk a head injury.

Sweden has come up with an alternative to the traditional helmet, called the Hovding. It’s an invisible helmet, more like a collar. The company calls it an “airbag for bicyclists.”

Many Swedes ride bikes as primary transportation but only 20% of the adults don helmets. If vanity is the reason for staying away from helmets (which I can understand because, based on my experience, Sweden has a high proportion of beautiful people), then this alternative might solve it. No more helmet head!

This article explains how it works:

It’s an air bag — one that’s tucked away in a collar that cyclists fastened around their neck. When the collar’s internal sensors detect a specific combination of jerks and jags signifying “ACCIDENT HAPPENING,” the air bag deploys, sending out a head-hugging, air-cushion hood in a tenth of a second.

The video that accompanies the story is really worth watching to see what happens when the airbag deploys. At that point, vanity will go out the window for sure.  But the helmet doesn’t just appeal to vanity:

In tests by a Swedish insurance company, Hovding was shown to be at least three times better at absorbing shock than conventional helmets (at 15 mph — this is a product aimed at urban cyclists). Hovding’s weakest point may be that it can’t protect riders from “direct hits” like overhanging branches and street signs, an issue that hasn’t prevented the company from winning Europe’s.

The article cites a couple of other downsides besides the lack of “direct hit” protection.  In warmer climates, people aren’t going to want an extra collar around their necks.  The company is working on a cooling mechanism to address that.  An added cooling mechanism will drive the price up from its current $535.  Oo la la!

I’m impressed by the safety testing.  But I would be wary of accidental deployment. I wonder what the cost of getting it “re-set” is? And the initial outlay of over $500 seems a tad excessive. I’ll take my helmet, thanks.

And also, re. the vanity issue. The Hovding may be invisible as a helmet, but to me it looks a lot like a neck brace.  Neck braces while necessary at times, aren’t much of a fashion statement either.

I’ll reserve making a definitive judgment on which is more hip–bike helmets or neck braces–but me, I’m leaning towards the bike helmets because at least they’re sporty.

To read more about the Hovding and see the video of the crash test, go here.

4 thoughts on “Too Vain (or Cool) for a Bike Helmet? Go Invisible!

  1. I read about this and saw the cool video in the NY Times. And I agree– it actually seems way more bothersome than a conventional helmet. But I applaud the designers’ creativity and thoroughness (they are two youngish women), and if it makes more people think about cycling, so much the better! In the meantime, though, I’ll stick with my Bell Sweep…

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  2. I can’t imagine road riding while wearing it. My neck gets sweaty and uncomfortable just thinking about it! But I am interested in the safety angle and regular helmets aren’t that great at concussion protection. “Bicycle helmets do an outstanding job of keeping our skulls intact in a major crash. But they do almost nothing to prevent concussions and other significant brain injuries—and the very government agency created to protect us is part of the problem. The time has come to demand something safer. ” See http://www.bicycling.com/senseless/index.html

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